What Adhesive is Right for Your Project

February 10, 2018


When creating a mosaic it is important to choose the correct adhesive and ensure that it is compatible with the base or substrate you are using. To help you choose the correct adhesive we have complied this quick reference guide.


Adhesives can be applied with a toothpick, small palette knife, paddle pop stick, paint brush, a butter knife or even a piping bag.

Adhesive Type Description Usage

PVA - Polyvinyl Acetate (also known as craft or wood glue)

White glue that is clear drying

  • Suited to the direct method of mosaics as tiles can be coated with glue prior to placement

  • Non-load bearing, can be used on mosaics that either lie flat or have little weight bearing.



  • Not waterproof making it not suitable to exterior applications

  • Diluted it can be used as a sealant in a ratio of 50:50 to water

EVA - Ethylene Vinyl Acetate

Water resistant version of PVA

  • Can be used on an outside area that will get wet

  • It is water resistant not water proof so do not use in an area that will be submerged in water

Liquid Nails

Construction Adhesive

  • Manufactured by Selleys brand and available in a range of different adhesive for specific applications
  • Available in cartridge gun form but some products are available in smaller squeeze packets.
  • Clear Liquid nails is a handy adhesive in mosaics. Not only is it clear drying, but it is a tacky adhesive which holds heavier tiles in place while drying. It can be used to compensate for variations in thicknesses. Place a dollop onto a disposable sheet and use a tool to apply the adhesive to the mosaic. Do not use Clear Liquid Nails on mirror as it may lead to the mirror de-silvering
  • Platinum Liquid Nails is an extremely strong adhesive but extremely difficult to work with. Do not let the adhesive come into contact with your skin and use only in well-ventilated areas. Not for the faint hearted!

Selleys Kwi Grip Advanced


Selleys Kwik Grip Advanced is a non-toxic, low fume, low odour, water-based flexible contact adhesive. Suitable for bonding absorbent and non-absorbent surfaces and ideal for bonding flat, close fitting surfaces. Forms a durable heat and water-resistant bond, being water based it is non-toxic and easy to clean up.

Use to bond: Polystyrene foam (will not degrade the foam) and metals.

Epoxy Resin Two part adhesive
  • Suitable for internal and external mosaic work
  • Comes in two parts, a hardener & resin that are mixed together just before use.
  • Extremely strong adhesive
  • Produces a lot of fumes and must be used in a well-ventilated space.
  • Great for outdoor applications which are constantly wet (e.g. birdbaths)
  • Can hold heavy tesserae pieces (e.g. Stones, Shells)
  • It is the only adhesive that will permanently stick tesserae to metal
  • Can be tricky to work with, as they are extremely sticky, can be quite runny and usually set fairly fast. Not for beginners to mosaics.
Weldbond Similar to PVA glues
  • Recommended by a number of mosaicists for internal mosaics
  • Can be used on cement, concrete, bricks, plaster, metal, glass, wood and tiles
  • Stronger than the average white craft glue
  • Water soluble, no fumes, non-toxic and easy to clean up
  • Dries clear making it suitable to use on glass on glass applications
  • Not waterproof making it not suitable for exterior applications
  • Suited to Direct Method of mosaics as tiles can be coated with glue prior to placement
  • Diluted it can be used as a sealant, mix 4 or 5 parts to one with water for sealing wood and terra-cotta projects
Cement Based Adhesives (polymer modified cement glue) Thin-set is a cement based adhesive
  • Recommended for exterior mosaics
  • Suited for the indirect method of mosaics for making an adhesive bedding. Work best for outdoor work, floor and heavy traffic areas.
  • Best adhesive to use if using the direct method and uneven tesserae.
  • Can be applied like icing. Place in a plastic bag and cut a corner (just like an icing bag)
  • Can be made waterproof by mixing with an acrylic additive. Great for stepping-stones, birdbaths, terracotta and an exterior mosaics.
  • The bond to both the tesserae and the backer material is improved by adding a commercial tile bonding agent and priming the backer material with the same products, before applying the paste.
  • Available from tiling specialists
Mastic Pre-mixed adhesive that is either latex or petrochemical base
  • A very sticky, paste-like adhesive
  • It has great slip resistance and works well for vertical surfaces.
  • Applied with a craft stick or palette knife
  • Not recommended for use on floors, under pressure it can become brittle and break down
  • Not recommended for exterior applications or in areas where it will be exposed to moisture
  • Not as strong as cement based adhesives
  • Used to attach tile to drywall
Clear Silicone Silicone
  • Dries clear so great for glass on glass projects
  • Waterproof and flexible
  • Suitable for use on mirror tiles as it won't de-silver the back
  • Make sure the back of the tile is coated completely so that grout cannot seep under the edges and spoil the effect
  • A tacky adhesive which allows heavier pieces to stay in place while drying
  • Strong smelling, use in a well ventilated room


Some handy tips:

  • Always follow manufacturers instructions
  • Choose an adhesive that is suitable for your choose base or substrate
  • Work in a well ventilated area
  • Ask advice at your hardware store if you are uncertain about a particular adhesive
  • Don't be tempted to apply too much adhesive, it will squeeze around the sides of the tile and may require clean up work prior to grouting. There needs to be room around the sides of the tiles for grout.
  • As a rule of thumb, the adhesive should cover 25% up the side of the tile
  • Masking or packaging tape can be useful in temporarily supporting tiles while the adhesive dries